Stefan Krug, dean of the School of Social Work, describes Simmons as values-driven and community-focused, with a strong social justice mission. Krug says Simmons attracts a certain type of student, and he expects both students and alumni to exercise their “leadership muscles” at Simmons, in their placements, and in their future careers.
WHAT SORT OF LEADER ARE YOU?
I am very drawn to Ron Heifetz's model of adaptive leadership. The central idea is that leaders need to act to meet today's challenges, and then exercise a kind of improvisational flexibility to meet tomorrow's contingencies. From this view, one of the primary tasks of leadership is providing a holding environment in which people can bear the necessary stress, and distress, of change. It's a way of thinking about leadership that fits the clinical skill sets of social work practitioners. I also draw on my father's experience as a clergyman. I like the idea that we move forward together, as a community, over time, and "shepherd" each other through good times and bad.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES YOU SEE FOR HIGHER EDUCATION?
The higher education industry is being transformed as a result of new technologies, the influence of for-profit education institutions, and consumer demand for more flexible pathways to degrees. In addition, ever-increasing financial pressures have put higher education out of reach for too many. At Simmons, I see opportunities for us to develop more joint degree programs, which add value for students and increase their competitive advantage in the marketplace.
HOW DO YOU THINK SIMMONS AND YOUR PARTICULAR SCHOOL APPROACH LEADERSHIP?
Many of our students are propelled into leadership positions in community agencies, and we want them to be well-prepared. Students in the Urban Leadership Program, which is focused on the development of leadership skills for social workers, take courses in leadership, public speaking, grant-writing, and community politics. At the same time, we also believe that leadership is an activity that can be exercised from any position in an organization, with or without formal authority.
TELL US ABOUT A TIME YOU FAILED AND WHAT YOU LEARNED FROM THAT EXPERIENCE.
I've experienced many failures! Sometimes my timing has been bad, or an idea hasn't ripened, or I've tried to go it alone when I should have developed allies. Most often, failure isn't fatal, and one has another chance to get it right. I think failure is probably a necessary and unavoidable consequence of experimentation, which is key to surviving in a tumultuous environment. The trick is to not let your failures immobilize you.
DO YOU HAVE HOBBIES?
I'm a jazz guitarist. I have recently reclaimed this part of my earlier life, as a musician, that I lost somewhere along the way. The skills required of musicians are not totally unrelated to those required of administrators. In my role as dean, I have to improvise. I need to know how to play well with others in an ensemble, sometimes leading and sometimes following. It helps to have an ear for harmony and for dissonance, and an ability to follow the melody line even when it seems to have disappeared.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WORD?
Pareidolia. A psychological phenomenon in which people perceive meaning in a vague, random, or abstract stimulus — a classic example would be gazing at clouds and seeing face-like features in them.